States With Legal Weed See Drop in Mental Health Treatment

States that have legalized recreational marijuana use for adults have also seen a drop in mental health treatment admissions, according to newly published research.

The findings, which came in a study published last month in the journal Health Economics, were based on data from ten states that have legalized adult-use cannabis. 

“Recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) continue to grow in popularity, but the effects on mental health treatment are unclear,” wrote Alberto Ortega, a professor at O’Neill School of Public Health at Indiana University and the author of the study.

In the abstract, Ortega said that the study “uses an event-study within a difference-in-differences framework to study the short-run impact of state RMLs on admissions into mental health treatment facilities.” 

“The results indicate that shortly after a state adopts an RML, they experience a decrease in the average number of mental health treatment admissions,” Ortega wrote. “The findings are driven by white, Black, and Medicaid-funded admissions and are consistent for both male and female admissions. The results are robust to alternative specifications and sensitivity analysis.”

Ortega said “there is a clear, immediate, statistically significant decrease in total admissions” after a state adopts recreational marijuana laws, and that the “effect becomes more pronounced as time goes on and remains negative through event year four.”

Overall, Ortega estimates that, in the early years following their passage, recreational marijuana laws “led to a roughly 37% decrease in total mental health treatment admissions or about 92 fewer admissions per 10,000 individuals in a state.”

“The results are driven by those under 65, Black, and white individuals. There is also a significant decrease in Medicaid-funded treatment admissions, with a much smaller statistically insignificant effect for non-Medicaid admissions,” he said.

The findings, though compelling, do also present a mystery. 

“Due to data limitations, it is difficult to identify the mechanisms leading to the decrease in mental health treatment found above,” Ortega acknowledged. “One possibility is that [recreational marijuana laws] increase marijuana use and that this improves mental health.”

Another possibility, Ortega said, was “that individuals needing mental health treatment can more readily substitute or self-medicate with marijuana, post-[recreational marijuana law].”

Researchers continue to track the effects of marijuana legalization in the United States, a trend that is still in its historical infancy.

A policy paper released last year found that youth marijuana consumption had not seen an increase in states that ended pot prohibition.

In May, a survey found that more than half of marijuana consumers in legal states got their pot from the store.

The findings, which came from a research firm called New Frontier Data, showed that “52% of current consumers say their primary source is a brick-and-mortar dispensary and only 6% say their primary source is a dealer” in states that have legalized adult-use pot.

According to the survey, “43% of [all] current consumers say that a brick-and-mortar dispensary is their primary source of cannabis, compared to 34% in 2022.” Ten percent of current weed consumers said “their primary source is a dealer, down from 13% in 2022,” the survey said.

“Interestingly, 29% of current consumers in illicit markets say that their primary source is also a brick-and-mortar dispensary compared to 17% who say they use dealers. This means that, even in illicit markets, consumers are travelling (sic) across state lines to obtain cannabis from a regulated source, as 42% of consumers say they have sourced cannabis from out of state,” said Dr. Amanda Reiman, the chief knowledge officer at New Frontier Data.

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Arizona Weed Sales Top $1 Billion in 2022

Cannabis sales in Arizona exceeded $1 billion dollars in 2022 as the state’s recreational marijuana market experienced strong growth in its second year of sales. Total weed sales came to $1.4 billion last year, according to data from the Arizona Department of Revenue, an amount roughly equal to the cannabis sales recorded in 2021.

Adult-use cannabis sales for 2022 reached $950 million, soaring to 70% of the state’s total marijuana sales for the year. Sales of medical marijuana were down significantly over the previous year, however, dropping to just over $500 million in 2022. 

Arizona’s recreational marijuana retailers closed 2022 with the strongest month of the year in December, ringing up about $86.6 in adult-use cannabis sales, up slightly from the $85.8 million recorded the month before. Sales of medical marijuana continued the downward trajectory prompted by the legalization of recreational cannabis, dropping slightly from $31.9 million in November to $31.1 million for the last month of 2022.

Arizona legalized recreational marijuana in 2020 with the passage of Proposition 207. Known as the Smart and Safe Act, the ballot measure was approved by 60% of the state’s voters. Licensed sales of recreational marijuana began in the state on January 21, 2021, less than three months after the ballot measure succeeded at the polls.

A separate ballot measure, Proposition 203, legalized the medicinal use of cannabis in Arizona in 2010 with just over 50% of the vote. The first licensed medical marijuana dispensary in the state began serving patients on December 6, 2012. Combined, the state’s medical marijuana and adult-use cannabis retailers have sold a total of $2.9 billion since recreational marijuana sales began two years ago.

More Reforms Still Needed in Arizona

Cannabis advocates in Arizona say that the state has made significant strides in reforming the state’s marijuana policy. But while sales have been strong the first two years of recreational marijuana sales, continued reform at the state and federal levels will be needed for the cannabis industry to become a major contributor to the state’s economy.

“We don’t see SWAT teams busting in the doors of dispensaries,” Aaron Smith, CEO of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said late last year. “But we do have problems with not being able to take tax deductions like a normal industry, or being able to have interstate commerce, which really creates a barrier to entry for a lot of folks.”

Despite the challenges, Smith says that Arizona is becoming a model for successfully transitioning to a regulated cannabis economy.

“Cannabis is used across demographics, boomers and millennials, and Gen Z, people over 21 are using responsibly and we’re glad to see that,” Smith said. “Arizona law is by and large working well.”

The legalization of cannabis has marked the creation of a new stream of tax revenue for the state’s coffers in Arizona. Tax revenue in December alone totaled nearly $23 million, bringing the total marijuana taxes collected by the state in 2022 to almost $270 million.

The state collects a 16% tax on recreational marijuana sales in addition to approximately 6% in sales tax. Medical marijuana patients pay only sales tax on their cannabis purchases. Local jurisdictions add additional taxes of about 2% to marijuana sales.

About a third of cannabis tax revenue collected in Arizona is reserved for community college and provisional community college districts, while 31% is dedicated to police, fire departments, fire districts and other first responders. A quarter of state marijuana taxes go to the Arizona Highway User Revenue Fund, while 10% is reserved for the justice reinvestment fund, which supports public health services, counseling, job training and other social services for communities that have been adversely affected and disproportionately impacted by decades of marijuana prohibition.

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Missouri Weed Sales Launch Earlier Than Expected

In a surprising twist, legal cannabis sales went live in Missouri on Friday, with state regulators issuing retail licenses days earlier than expected. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that industry expectations “had been that the licenses required to sell non-medical cannabis would not be issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services until Monday … the department threw a curve Thursday afternoon, announcing that it would issue licenses on Friday to the dispensaries that qualified for them.”

And receipt of a license means that a dispensary can begin selling to customers right away.

“Recreational-use marijuana will initially be sold only at already-existing medical-use dispensaries. State health department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said at least 170 of these dispensaries statewide are eligible for licenses Friday, which will be given to any store in good standing with the department,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“Good standing means the license is not suspended, revoked, or otherwise inactive at the time the request is made,” Cox said, as quoted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Voters in Missouri legalized recreational cannabis for adults when they approved Amendment 3 in last year’s election by a vote of 53% to 47%. 

The amendment changed the state constitution to permit the sale, possession, consumption, delivery, and manufacturing of marijuana. As in other states that have ended the prohibition on pot, Missouri’s new cannabis law also includes a social justice component enabling individuals who have been previously convicted of a pot-related offense to have their records expunged. 

The amendment was formally added to the Missouri constitution in December

Since its passage by voters in November, regulators with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have been finalizing rules for the new legal cannabis market. 

Last month, the department said that rules “were filed today for Missouri’s adult-use cannabis program with the Missouri Secretary of State’s Office, making program rules effective on Feb. 3.”

“Per Missouri voter-approved Amendment 3, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is the agency assigned with regulatory authority over the program just as it has led the state’s medical marijuana program since 2018. The Division of Cannabis Regulation within DHSS has published three sets of draft rules to gather public feedback since the amendment passed in November 2022,” the department said in a bulletin last month

“Once rules are effective, DHSS will begin approving or denying requests from licensed medical marijuana facilities to convert to comprehensive facilities, which can serve both medical and adult-use consumers. After conversion, sales to adult-use consumers may begin as soon as comprehensive dispensary facilities are ready to commence operating under their new authority. Also per Amendment 3 to Article XIV, DHSS will begin accepting applications for consumer personal cultivation by Feb. 6. Once approved, this will allow authorized persons, who are at least 21 years of age, to grow plants for personal, non-commercial use within an enclosed locked facility at their residence.”

In some ways, getting Amendment 3 on last November’s ballot represented an achievement. As the deadline approached for signatures, there were growing doubts that the group pushing the amendment, Legal Missouri 2022, would meet the threshold. 

But in August, much to the relief of advocates, Missouri’s secretary of state announced that Amendment 3 had indeed qualified for the ballot.

“Our statewide coalition of activists, business owners, medical marijuana patients and criminal justice reform advocates has worked tirelessly to reach this point, and deserves all the credit,” John Payne, campaign manager of Legal Missouri 2022, said after the amendment qualified. “Our campaign volunteers collected 100,000 signatures, on top of paid signature collection. That outpouring of grassroots support among Missourians who want to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis made all the difference. We look forward to engaging with voters across the state in the coming weeks and months. Missourians are more than ready to end the senseless and costly prohibition of marijuana.”

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Italian Army’s Mission: Produce More Cannabis

Italy is turning to its military to help make its legal medical marijuana program self-sufficient. 

DefenseNews reports that the Italian army intends to produce “700 kilograms (1,543 pounds) of top-grade cannabis to cover nearly half of the 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds) required annually in the country for those in need of pain relief, such as people with cancer or Parkinson’s disease.” 

“The next step is self-sufficiency — that’s our ambition,” Nicola Latorre, who leads the Italian agency overseeing the operation, told DefenseNews.

According to the outlet, Italy imports cannabis that is not grown by the army from Holland, Canada, Denmark and Germany, but that the military is “ramping up at an anonymous-looking Army facility on the edge of Florence.”

DefenseNews explains that the facility near Florence was opened in 2014 and it “managed 50 kilograms in 2020 before rising to 300 kilograms in 2022.” 

In order to meet its goal of roughly 1,500 pounds in 2023, “technicians are perfecting lighting, watering, temperature and ventilation, and they are using a blend of secret nutrients developed in-house that are mixed in with the hydroponic irrigation.” 

The Italian army’s role in medical cannabis production is nothing new. 

The country announced back in 2014 that “the army would help increase the production of medical marijuana, with the first secure growing facility unveiled in Florence” in April of 2015, according to The Independent

The Independent reported in 2016 that the country’s army began “growing large crops of cannabis in order to force the price of the drug down to about €8 per gram.” 

“It is hoped the sterile chamber [in Florence] will produce up to 100kg of cannabis every year, strictly for use by cancer patients, multiple sclerosis sufferers and those with other medical conditions which could be alleviated by the drug,” The Independent reported at the time. 

Colonel Antonio Medica, who was overseeing the cannabis production by the Italian army, said that “the army had been entrusted with the task due to the guarantee of tight security and because it has been involved in pharmaceutical matters since the 1800s, providing medicines and treatments for injured soldiers.”

Italy legalized medical cannabis nearly a decade ago, but it has long depended on imports of the crop in order to satisfy the demand within its borders. 

Col. Gabriele Picchioni, who is overseeing the cannabis facility in Florence for the Italian Army, told DefenseNews that the lab “aims to produce cannabis-infused olive oil, which users can take in drop form.” 

“What we can do in Florence is produce a highly standardized product so the dosage is unvaried, at the same price as we are now paying for imports,” Picchioni said. 

The reasons for tasking the country’s army with the cannabis production are two-fold: “to produce cannabis at a secure facility, and because the armed service has been in the pharmaceutical business for decades, turning out chemical warfare antidotes and malaria pills for soldiers.”

The army also “manufactures so-called orphan drugs — medicines for rare diseases or conditions that big companies ignore because of the low production rates,” making “four such drugs to supply 3,000 people in Italy.”

“As cannabis production ramps up, the Army has registered two types of marijuana it harvests as brands: FM1 and FM2, which stand for ‘Farmaceutico Militare’ (or ‘Military Pharmaceutical’ in English). Each contains a different level of tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that gives pot its high,” DefenseNews said.

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Recreational Pot Sales Begin in Rhode Island

Licensed sales of adult-use cannabis began in Rhode Island on Thursday, only six months after Governor Dan McKee signed legislation to legalize recreational marijuana for adults aged 21 and older. Five stores began selling adult-use cannabis on December 1, with more licensed retailers expected to begin business operations in the coming weeks.

The five retailers who launched adult-use cannabis sales on Thursday were all already licensed to sell medical marijuana to patients registered with the state’s medicinal cannabis program. By the end of next month, two additional so-called hybrid retailers will add recreational marijuana sales to their existing medical cannabis operations. 

Last week, the governor marked the impending launch of adult-use cannabis sales as the December 1 launch date approached.

“This milestone is the result of a carefully executed process to ensure that our state’s entry into this emerging market was done in a safe, controlled and equitable manner,” McKee said in a November 22 statement from the governor’s office. “It is also a win for our statewide economy and our strong, locally based cannabis supply chain, which consists of nearly 70 licensed cultivators, processors and manufacturers in addition to our licensed compassion centers. Finally, I thank the leadership of the General Assembly for passing this practical implementation framework in the Rhode Island Cannabis Act and I look forward to continuing our work together on this issue.”

Recreational Marijuana Legalized In May

Matt Santacroce, chief of the Rhode Island Office of Cannabis Regulation and interim deputy director of the Department of Business Regulation, noted the speed with which state regulators had authorized the launch of recreational marijuana sales after McKee signed legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis in May.

“We were pleased with the quality and comprehensiveness of the applications we received from the state’s compassion centers, and we are proud to launch adult use sales in Rhode Island just six months after the Cannabis Act was signed into law, marking the Northeast’s fastest implementation period,” said Santacroce. “We look forward to continuing to work with the state’s cannabis business community to ensure this critical economic sector scales in compliance with the rules and regulations put forward by state regulators.

State officials are not expecting a surge in cannabis use because medical marijuana has been legal since 2006 and recreational cannabis is available in neighboring states. 

“It’s a good opportunity for Rhode Islanders to buy safe, regulated cannabis products in the convenience of their own town or area of the state,” Santacroce told the Boston Globe. “If you are used to going to Massachusetts or wherever, you can save time and gas. We will generate state and local tax revenue that didn’t exist before. And we have the opportunity to capture value in our market, in our industry, in our supply chain. That’s a big deal.”

Under state law, adults are permitted to smoke cannabis wherever tobacco smoking is allowed, unless the use poses potential harm to children. The legislation passed in May also includes provisions to expunge prior cannabis possession offenses no longer illegal under current law.

Taxes On Recreational Weed Total 20%

Taxes on recreational sales include a 10% state cannabis excise tax in addition to the 7% state sales tax, plus an additional 3% local tax for the city or town in which the sale takes place. Taxes on recreational marijuana sales are expected to generate about $15 million in tax revenues in the first full fiscal year of sales. State officials project regulated marijuana sales to generate about $7.5 million in state excise tax revenue, $5.2 million in state sales tax revenue, and $2.2 million in local excise tax revenue.

Cannabis retailer Mother Earth Wellness in Pawtucket opened three hours earlier than its normal 8:00 a.m. opening time to get a jump on the first day of legal recreational marijuana sales, and the shop’s first recreational marijuana transaction was rung up at 5:18 a.m. The dispensary saw about 300 customers visit the dispensary by mid-morning, about 80% of whom were recreational buyers.

“We’ve had a very successful day,” Mother Earth Wellness co-owner Joe Pakuris told the Associated Press. “I think it has been a smooth transition and the state has done an excellent job of rolling out this program. Everything’s great.”

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Indiana Democrats Announce Full Support of Recreational Cannabis

Highlighting robust public support and the potential for an economic boon to the state, Democrats in Indiana said Monday that they will pursue marijuana legalization in the forthcoming legislative session.

The Indiana Democratic Party used the announcement to broadcast “its full support for the effort to legalize recreational cannabis across the state,” and to put pressure on Hoosier State Republicans, namely Governor Eric Holcomb, to get on board with the reform effort.

The Democrats also pointed to a recent survey showing that eight out of 10 Indiana adults back marijuana legalization.

“Legalizing marijuana in some form is supported by about 80-percent of Hoosiers and would provide the opportunity to create an additional revenue stream for the state, create good-paying jobs, develop a long-term cash crop for Indiana’s ag and business communities, provide medicinal opportunities for people like the state’s veterans and seniors, and could start the process of expunging records for simple possession across the state,” the Indiana Democratic Party said in the release. 

Monday’s announcement from the Democrats came on the eve of Organization Day, the ceremonial launch of the legislative calendar when lawmakers are sworn in and make preparations with their colleagues for the upcoming session, which will begin in January. 

Mike Schmuhl, Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party, said in the announcement that Indiana constituents have looked to their neighbors to recognize the merits of legalization, with fellow midwestern states Illinois and Michigan both ending prohibition on pot inside their respective borders.

Democrats said that Indiana residents are currently contributing “millions of dollars to Michigan and Illinois economies—where cannabis is legalized.” Legalizing marijuana in Indiana, the Democrats said, would ensure that the state economy “would have a guaranteed cash crop in the long-term for the state’s businesses and farming communities, creating a revenue stream for the General Assembly to use in future sessions.”

“Hoosiers have seen the impact that recreational and medicinal cannabis use has made on the states around us, and not only are they contributing to neighboring states’ economies, Indiana is now on the verge of losing out altogether. The Republican supermajority at the statehouse is losing its economic common sense if they do not join Democrats this session in making this opportunity a winner for the Hoosier State,” Schmuhl said.

“Marijuana is a really popular issue, and a large majority of Hoosiers want to see this get done. Democrats are ready to take the lead on this effort because it’s a win-win for Indiana, and it’ll fulfill the Party’s consistent promise of creating a better future for Hoosier families. It’s time to legalize recreational cannabis across Indiana.”

Legalization would mark a massive change for law enforcement in Indiana, where, under current law, “possession of even a single joint is punishable by up to a year of incarceration and a fine of up to $5,000,” according to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

MPP said that Indiana is “now one of only 14 states with no effective medical cannabis law, and one of only 19 that still imposes jail time for simple possession of cannabis.”

The state Democratic Party said that, along with broad public approval, there is also some bipartisan support for legalization, with some GOP lawmakers eager to take the step.

But Holcomb, currently serving his second term as governor, has voiced opposition to legalization in the past. In 2019, Holcomb acknowledged that he smoked weed when he was in college, but that he could not get behind legalization until the federal government acted first.

“If the law changed, we would look at all the positive or adverse impacts it would have,” the governor said at the time. “I’m not convinced other states have made a wise decision.”

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Fact Check: Is Luxembourg the First European Country to Legalize Cannabis?

Has Luxembourg become the first to legalize cannabis in Europe? Reports are circulating that the country of 600,000 recently became the first country in Europe to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. However, news of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Despite growing movements for cannabis reform in Europe, many countries […]

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How Legal Cannabis Relieves CHS – Limits of Irradiation

We recently explored the rare phenomenon that causes cannabis to induce profuse vomiting and excruciating pain, a condition that has been tagged Cannabis Hyperemesis Syndrome (CHS.) It is hard for some to believe this can happen, calling it refer madness; alternatively, some reports now claim Canada’s legal cannabis relieves CHS. Bogus! That’s nothing but more […]

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